HELLO EVERYONE I GO ON HOLIDAY TOMORROW FOR TWO WEEKS I AM SO EXCITED I MIGHT PROLAPSE!
Yes, fine, I know that you personally couldn't give a flying one about my plans, but it's my blognewsletterthingy and I will open it however I like so there. Welcome to the final Curios til 28 September, the last, wheezing gasp of Summer before we usher in decorative gourd season (and apologies for last week's technical fcukup - if your newsletter was full of broken links then you can see the web version here) - you'd better enjoy these links because there will be NO MORE until I get back.
So without further ado, I'm off to see whether I still fit into my Speedos - YEAH, TRY NOT IMAGINING THAT - and to try and find my passport (only joking, Saz, it's RIGHT HERE); you take care of yourselves while I'm away, and try not to die or anything. Remember, without you I am nothing. This, as ever, is Web Curios and I am now on holiday.
By Jenny Morgan
THE SECTION WHICH REALLY ISN’T GOING TO THINK ABOUT ANY OF THIS STUFF FOR A FORTNIGHT AND SUGGESTS THAT YOU DON’T EITHER:
- Some Bad Numbers For Facebook: The Pew Research Centre in the US once again published some numbers about Facebook usage in the US, and the main headline takeaway is that THE KIDS DON’T LIKE IT. Or at least the extrapolated version of THE KIDS derived from a total sample size of 4,500 people in their latest US survey, which is basically the same thing. This TechCrunch article doesn’t have the frothy, headline-grabbing ‘KIDS ARE ABANDONING FB’ headline of a lot of the other coverage, but the figure I recall seeing there suggested that 40+% of 18-29 year olds have deleted the FB app from their phone in the past year. Which, let’s be clear, doesn’t in any way mean the same thing as ‘not actually being on or using Facebook at all’, but nonetheless doesn’t sound great for po’ Mark’s Big Blue Misery Factory.
- Facebook Flight Ads: Seemingly more of a rebrand than a totally new ad unit, this is ‘Dynamic Ads for travel for flight’ with a SNAPPY new name, allowing advertisers to target people who Facebook believes to be looking for holiday travel with whatever happy, reassuring messages they desire (“Flying soon? Bought insurance? WHY NOT YOU MIGHT DIE!”, etc etc).
- Insta Building Shopping App: Allegedly, at least. There is literally NO story here - it’s a rumour, reported to the Verge and written up in an astonishingly caveat-y manner which I feel the need to share with you in full: “The app — which may be called IG Shopping — will let users browse collections of goods from merchants that they follow and purchase them directly within the app, according to two people familiar with the matter. It could not be learned when the app might launch. Its development is still ongoing, and it could be canceled before it is released.” THERE MIGHT BE SOMETHING HAPPENING! THERE MIGHT! There equally might not, so, you know, WAIT AND SEE.
- Insta Launches New SuperZoom Effects: Not strictly that interesting, fine, but as the attention wars on Insta reach new heights with the world and their fcuking dog competing to show off their inherent creativity through the medium of Stories you will need some strong ammo to stay ahead of the game and retain those jaded eyeballs. Here then for your directorial enjoyment (yes, DIRECTORIAL - we are all DIRECTORS OF THE STORY OF OUR OWN LIFE dear God words really cannot express how much I hate Insta culture and literally everything it embodies) are a bunch of additional fun zoomy effects available in-app; some of these, snark aside, are actually quite cool and fun-looking, not least the paparazzi-style flash-zoom, but you’ll have a window of about 36h to use them before they are as played out as polka dots (based on current fashion trends that’s a Biggie lyric that hasn’t aged too well tbh).
- Instagram Wellbeing: Another week, another initiative to persuade us that the scrolling and the staring and the judging and the snarking and the vicarious living and the wanting and the hating and the fear and inadequacy and self-loathing are actually good for us, honest guv. Instagram Wellbeing is a standalone site collecting a whole bunch of instructional content about how to use Insta in the BEST way - “our mission is to bring people closer to the people and things they love”, they say, except IT’S FCUKING NOT, IS IT? Your mission, per your status as part of Facebook, a publicly listed company with significant shareholder responsibility, is to aggressively grow and monetise your userbase as rapidly as possible to deliver optimal value to the owners of your stock because THAT IS HOW CAPITALISM WORKS. Stop trying to fcuking pretend that this is not the primary motivating factor you dreadful cnuts. Oh, and let me single out the phrase “Your time on Instagram should be intentional, positive and inspiring” for specific hatred - the person who wrote the copy here really ought to be ashamed of themselves. Look, fine, if you feel like you need Instagram to tell you how to use its platform BEST then you might enjoy this, but I can’t tell you how much this boils my p1ss.
- You Might Soon Get Threaded Twitter Conversations: You might not though. Who knows? Twitter’s also apparently considering implementing a ‘user x is online now’ feature, which, for a platform renowned for its....problematic status around bullying and harassment, doesn’t sound like a universally great idea if I’m totally honest with you. Oh, and the Nazis? Yeah, they’ll still be there.
- Twitter Issue Ads: A US-only initiative, at least for now, Twitter’s updated its policy on ‘issue ads’ - that is, ads which relate to elections, candidates or ‘policy issues of national significance’ will require that advertisers wishing to run them be vetted by Twitter before they’ll be able to run, with the platform requiring certain verified information about the company, its location and ownership, etc - ads pertaining to ‘issues’ of this ilk will be labelled with ‘ISSUE’ along with details of which organisation has paid for the promo. Which, to be clear, is A Good Thing, although interestingly there’s an inbuilt exemption for news organisations which have “a minimum audience of 200,000 monthly uniques in the U.S., dedicated editorial staff and contact information online. They also have to have a searchable archive.” - there are a few other conditions, but it does feel a touch like there might be a few get-outs here for the fashies should they want them.
- YouTube Giving: I have literally nothing negative to say about this - it’s a whole suite of fundraising tools for YouTube creators, allowing them to fundraise in a variety of different ways directly through the platform. It’s all in beta, and it’s a limited rollout to certain US creators only, but when this inevitably rolls out internationally it can’t be seen as anything other than A Positive Thing (although I await the first YouTuber to be implicated in fundraising fraud with a slightly guilty degree of sweaty-palmed anticipation, I must confess).
- Snapchat Launches Bounce: You know the ‘Boomerang’ feature on Insta? Yes, that, but on Snapchat. Whilst you can’t begrudge them for stealing something from Facebook rather than just getting their featureset nicked all the time, it’s not the most exciting update. Sorry. Blame Snap. Oh, hang on, there’s a new design of Snap specs too. Better? Oh.
- Amazon Is Testing An Attribution Pixel: This is a really tedious story about the fact that Amazon might soon introduce a tracking pixel in order to allow advertisers to better track and compare attribution from ads bought on the platform. I have nothing else to write about this, and frankly would like to forget that I ever read this news in the first place because, well, it’s just so, so dull.
- Giphy World VR: This sounds...very, very odd tbh. A VR app for Oculus and HTC Vive, this lets you play with gifs as VR stickers in a selection of 3d environments and then export your efforts for sharing elsewhere. Frankly it looks like a massive, terrifying hallucination which you’d really rather not spend too much time in, but if you have a VR headset and would like to explore the magical world of, er, a virtual 3d environment absolutely covered in memetic images then this is going to be RIGHT up your street.
- KFC Baby Name Stunt: I’m including this in the main because it is proof positive that we have now reached a point where you can basically just recycle every single marketing idea from the early-00s because everyone has seemingly forgotten everything about the past. The headline of this article - “The most dystopian marketing stunt ever?” - conveniently forgets that ‘name your new kid after a thing and get paid’ was a legitimate PR stunt done by Acclaim in 2002 when it offered parents $10k if they named their firstborn ‘Turok’ (just realised that little Turok, whoever and wherever they may be, turns 16 this year - WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING CALLED ‘TUROK’? I would totally read an interview with this kid, please someone do a journalism at them). Please can we now go full-early-millennium and start resurrecting ALL of the awful stunts from the bad old days of videogame marketing, like the God of War goat orgy or, er, my body parts thing?
- A Whole Bunch of PR / Marketing Case Studies: I know that for many of you the news that Web Curios is going away for a fortnight is a boon - “one less email to delete from my unbox, unread, each week!”, you think to yourselves, “HUZZAH!” - but there will be others of you, perhaps two, for whom this is a genuine asset in your professional life and who will honestly miss the RED HOT ADVERMARKETINGPR CONTENT that I bring you each week (I do it for you, for BOTH of you); anyway, this is for YOU; a compendium of PR and marketing and advertising activations from a wide range of categories and from ALL OVER THE WORLD for you to use as ‘inspiration’ or, more accurately, for you to pitch poorly-conceived, watered-down ripoff versions to clients who won’t have seen the originals. You’re welcome!
THE SECTION WHICH HOPES THAT THE LINKS THIS WEEK WILL BE ENOUGH TO KEEP YOU GOING FOR TWO CURIOLESS WEEKS, PT.1:
- Saidit: Do you like Reddit but wish that it weren’t so full of awful (you are wrong, the awful is the BEST bit)? Well LOOKY HERE THEN! Saidit is a Reddit clone - literally a clone, it’s quite an impressive ripoff job on all counts, from look and feel to UI - which aims to foster ‘better-quality debate and conversation’; “We're trying to create an environment that encourages thought-provoking discussion, like how reddit used to be 5+ years ago, when Aaron Swartz was still around. We've made several improvements. Saidit doesn't have upvote vs downvote, but instead two types of upvotes: An "Insightful" vote which has a lightbulb icon, and a "Funny" vote which is a laughing icon. You can vote both of them if it's both funny and insightful, and that will give it the most points and increase its ranking. This two-upvote system gets rid of upvote vs downvote wars, and people downvoting others to censor them.” Will it work? I do wonder whether the issue with Reddit is less the quality of debate and more the fact that it’s full of people posting absolute garbage - given the frontpage of Saidit at the time of writing contains three separate links about SECRET CABALS OF ELITE PAEDOS then, er, maybe this isn’t the solution after all. Still, as far as I can tell there’s no bongo on there yet, so maybe it is a purer, better way!
- Deepmoji: This is an interesting idea; Deepmoji is an MIT project which takes a dataset of emoji use on Twitter and using machine learning is attempting to create a system to effectively translate anything you type into a string of emoji. Totally pointless, of course, but if you’ve ever wanted to see what “fcuk me daddy” looks like as a string of cartoonish smileys then are YOU in for a treat.
- Bulwer Lytton 2018: Another year, another edition of the Bulwer Lytton prize, rewarding the author of the best worst opening line of a (nonexistant) novel, and another chance to marvel at quite how bad writing can be if you put your mind to it (yes, I am making the same joke about Curios in my head as I type this, no I don’t want you to share your variant of it with me thankyouverymuchindeed). Per Curios tradition I’m not going to quote the winner - you can discover its beauty by clicking the link you lazy fcuks - but instead share with you my personal favourite from this year’s selection: “After three weeks on the trail, John’s jock rash was (in some places) burning brighter than the West Texas sun – least wise as far as a cowboy could tell with his chaps and britches down and the little mirror his mom had given him.” What’s yours?
- Vivos: As reported in Curios passim, the world’s plutocratic super-wealthy are buying up land in New Zealand like billyo in preparation for the coming apocalypse (an apocalypse that, let’s be clear, the vast majority of said plutocratic super-wealthy will have had a not-insignificant hand in bringing about - THANKS, PETER!). If, though, you’re not in a position to buy up a few square miles of prime Kiwi real estate, perhaps you’ll find the Vivos proposition of interest - Vivos is a company peddling APOCALYPSE BUNKERS! That’s right, for a mere 35,000 Euros (starting price - I imagine that that entry-level cost gets you a broom cupboard, access to basic rations and a position as ‘bunker fcuktoy’ in perpetuity, so you might want to save up a bit extra) you could enjoy THIS: “Located in the heart of Europe is one of the most fortified and massive underground survival shelters on Earth. Carved out of solid bedrock, under a 400' tall mountain, by the Soviets during the Cold War, this shelter was a fortress for military equipment and munitions. Now privately owned, this 76 acre above and below ground hardened facility is capable of withstanding a substantial close range nuclear blast, a direct airliner crash, biological and chemical agents, massive shock waves, earthquakes, electro-magnetic pulses, flooding and virtually any armed attack. This irreplaceable complex is now being re-tasked as Vivos Europa One, becoming the world's largest private underground shelter for long-term, uncompromising protection for families and their groups, along with their most precious assets when no other above-ground exfiltration solution will suffice.” SO MUCH TO LOVE HERE, not least the oddly sinister and inhuman phrase “families and their groups” - what does that mean? Anyway, there are bunkers in the US, Europe and elsewhere that you can buy yourself a space in; it really is worth having a bit of a dig around the website, though, as it gets even more mental the further you dig - don’t miss the section about the DNA vault, which really is next-level scifi mental.
- Papa: Nothing to do with Jonny Jonny Yes Papa (if that means nothing to you then a) you are lucky; b) sorry for ruining your innocence here) but instead an app intended to address the problem of loneliness in old age; Papa connects college students in the US with older people in their local area who need assistance and companionship, effectively setting the students up as assistants or occasional companions for the elderly. The slight downside to this is that it’s a for-profit thing, meaning that the old people (or, more likely, their kids who can’t be bothered to spend time with them because CHRIST Dad don’t you understand that I am busy and honestly I simply don’t have time to run errands for you all the time and no, I can’t spend twenty minutes on the phone with you we have to take the children to their piano lessons) pay $20-30 per hour for the privilege of not being ignored by society, of which some will go to the students and a cut to the app. I totally understand the need to incentivise this in some way to broaden the pool of potential young people available, but it rather sours the whole concept for me.
- Tip Yourself: This made me laugh hollowly for quite a while when I found it this week; Tip Yourself is a savings app whose premise is designed around the slightly pathetic concept of REWARDING YOURSELF by, er, saving money! The idea is that whenever you do something GREAT that you feel deserves some sort of small pat on the back you will pull up the app and add some money to your savings account, thereby rewarding a future version of you in some small manner through financial prudence. I can see how it might work, fine, but is there anything more painfully millennial and OF THE NOW than the idea of rewarding yourself by squirrelling away the £3 you didn’t just spend on a hot chocolate into your pension fund? Look kids, we’re all going to die in penury anyway so just spend it all on booze and fags and gak and die early, ok?
- The Web Design Museum: This is absolute treasure trove of wonder - the Web Design Museum hosts over 900 screenshots detailing changes in website design trends over the course of the past couple of decades, and the overview it offers of the way in which we’ve changed how we communicate through the visual language of the web is just great; all the designers amongst you will very much enjoy this, and if any of you can get a project greenlit based on a web design aesthetic from 2001 then I will be HUGELY proud of you and take a small degree of personal credit.
- Google Dataset Search: This is HUGELY useful, or at least it is if you’re the sort of person who needs to do datawrangling as part of your job; Google this week launched a searchable archive of publicly-available datasets, which, fine, you could have found on Google anyway with the right search parameters but which now are given their own specific Google discovery tool. Really very helpful indeed.
- Orii: There is, still, no way of talking into something that isn’t a phone that doesn’t make one look either mad or like a total prick. Orii isn’t going to change that in any way, but it’s still a very scifi toy - it’s a ring (per almost all wearables, a really fcuking ugly one - although actually I found this earlier, which is rather attractive AND doubles as a masturbation aid for women) which functions as a phone, and which does the intensely creepy bone conduction thing with audio which whenever I have tried it makes me feel deeply, deeply unwell. You answer the phone by - get this - putting your finger against your ear - the audio gets transmitted along your finger and to your skull to enable you to hear, whilst the act of keeping your ear shit blocks background noise; the fact you’re keeping your finger against your ear also serves to bring the ring into close enough range that the mic embedded in it can pick up your speech and transmit it to your interlocutor. If you’ve ever wanted to be a spy, or in Star Trek, this is absolutely your jam.
- Stellarium: You may be aware of Stellarium as an app - you know, it’s one of those ‘hold your phone up to the sky and see all the stars you can’t actually see in real life because the weather’s crap and the light pollution has rendered them all invisible anyway” things - but this is the web version and it lets you see the great, glorious majesty of the infinity of space from your desktop and we are all tiny, insignificant specks of matter in a cold and uncaring universe and that is ok. Sorry, went a bit existential there - this is very, very cool though.
- EmojiTetra: This is ace - a Twitter project which plays an ongoing game of Tetris with emoji; a smart use of Twitter polls lets anyone who wants vote on the next move in the game, creating a collaborative, infinite artworkgamethingy. Like a really, really, really slow version of Twitch Plays Pokemon. But, er, with Tetris. So not actually like that at all, really. FFS Matt you HACK.
- Garratt William: Garratt William is an animator. This is his Instagram feed. You will like his animations a LOT; they are funny and silly and occasionally a bit dark, and I would commission him were I the sort of person with budgets and clients and, you know, any sort of decision-making power whatsoever.
- Unstirred Paint: See, whilst Reddit might be a cesspit of horror in many respects, it also has stuff like this - an entire sub devoted to photos people have taken of what cans of paint look like before they have been stirred. You may not think that that would be a compelling collection of imagery but OH ME OH MY you haven’t lived until you’ve enjoyed the uniquely meditative colourscapes here arrayed, made even better by the hugely pretentious Farrow & Ball-esque names the uploaders have given to their snaps; ‘Aberration’ is my favourite from the frontpage as it stands, but pick your own (also, special shout out to whoever it was who basically Rorschach tested themselves with paint and came up with ‘Butt Cheeks’).
- The Good News: An Insta feed based out of South Africa which shares photos of the posters which the accounts owner has put up on telephone poles and lampposts celebrating GOOD NEWS - these are basically single-note wholesome gags, of the ‘Worm Outwits Early Bird’ variety, but there’s something rather lovely about the way in which they are presented and it’s a nice occasional antidote to the ceaselessly contoured and filtered perfection being passed off as real life as we all flex, flex, flex for the ‘Gram (did I mention already how much I fcuking hate every single tiny thing about Insta culture? I did, didn’t I?).
By Dion Agius
THE SECTION WHICH HOPES THAT THE LINKS THIS WEEK WILL BE ENOUGH TO KEEP YOU GOING FOR TWO CURIOLESS WEEKS, PT.2:
- Conserve The Sound: A digital archiving and conservation project designed to house recordings of the sounds of now-obsolete technology - the ‘click-clunk’ of a tape walkman’s opening mechanism, say, or a dial-up modem. Send this to young people in your office and watch as they gawp at how noisily analogue life used to be, and then amuse yourself for the rest of the day by playing the dial-up modem sound at earsplitting volume every time you navigate to a new webpage in a performance art-style evocation of the way things used to be.
- Brand New Roman: A font whose alphabet is made entirely of brand typefaces. This is really very good indeed; it’s astonishing (and misery-inducing) the extent to which these are baked into our consciousness, and I guarantee that you will recognise 90% of the typefaces used in this. Perfect for the production of anticapitalist propaganda posters sticking it to THE MAN and cleverly subverting his communications (The Man doesn’t care, The Man won a long, long time ago and is happily enjoying His retirement in a paradisical setting somewhere, probably New Zealand tbh).
- Charles Booth’s London: Thanks to reader Summer Taylor for sending this link my way - the LSE has this incredible collection of maps compiled by Charles Booth, an industrialist and social reformer who lived in the 19thC and was one of those incredible Victorians who was totally and passionately committed to knowledge and its accrual. These maps offer an incredible picture of the UK as it used to be, with a particular focus on detailing the socioeconomic conditions of the ordinary man - “The survey notes and data form a rich and varied resource for investigation into the social and economic history of late 19th century London. Living and working conditions, the lives and employment of women, organisation of trade and industry, the effects of national and international migration, leisure activities, and the religious life of the capital are all described in detail.” This is FASCINATING.
- German Drones: A tip from Warren Ellis’s excellent newsletter, this is an Insta feed showcasing German drone photography. It’s drone photography, fine, so you know what you’re getting, but there’s a slightly teutonic majesty to all of the shots.
- Colour Leap: You want a website which presents a bunch of colour palettes inspired by the prevailing artistic trends of centuries past? No, in all honesty I can’t imagine that it has ever occurred to you to desire such a thing, and yet nonetheless I present it to you here with hopeful eyes, asking only for your thanks and approval like the pathetic little linkslag.
- The Art of James White: White makes work evoking that very particular neon-and-chrome 80s VHS covers / videogame box aesthetic, and this site presents his archive; it’s a distinct style which might not be to everyone’s taste, but as a throwback to a specific era it’s spectacularly on the nose.
- Magazine Rack: I was pretty convinced that I’d featured this before, but seemingly not; this is a BRILLIANT archive of scanned magazines from around the world - mainly English language, and with a predictable bent towards computing and related issues, but the breadth and depth of material here collected is genuinely great; if nothing else, it’s meant that I got to waste a significant amount of one of my paymasters’ time this week reading back issues of PC Zone from the mid-90s and if that sound your idea of a good time then, well, we’re both as broken as each other, congratulations!
- A Guide To NYC’s Workers: A lovely photo essay presenting collections of photos of New York’s various tribes of workers - cab drivers, construction workers, hot dog sellers and the rest - and demonstrating the commonality of aesthetic amongst otherwise diverse communities. I would LOVE to see this done for London, so if someone could get on with it that would be great thanks.
- MapFrappe: I can’t quite conceive of a reason why you’d need this, but just in case - MapFrappe lets you define an area on a map, and then compare that area to any other area you choose in terms of size; so, for example, you can see exactly how much space Italy would take up on the African continent, say. Look, I don’t make this stuff, I just find it - it’s up to you to decide what the point of it all is. DO SOME FCUKING WORK.
- Random Toy Reviews: Thanks to Kevin Mar for pointing this out to me - if you want to spend a few hours reading through a middle-aged man’s reviews of toys that he is a bit too old to be this obsessive about then WOW are you in for a treat. I don’t mean to be snarky - this is rather cutely obsessive, and if you are a MAN OF A CERTAIN AGE (ie my age chiz chiz chiz) then you will probably find that this leads you down a memoryhole which might well culminate in you losing the day to old 80s cartoons on YouTube.
- Britformers: It’s been a while since we’ve featured a slightly odd Kickstarter, so it was nice to stumble across this...niche crowdfunding campaign seeking to raise a small amount of cash to produce a comic book which basically takes the concept of Transformers but transposes it to 60s Britain for no discernible reason whatsoever. Britformers will be “set in 60’s Britain, containing British vehicles and objects, with British characters and wrapped up in a very British story. This isn't a story of virtuous heroes versus evil villains; it’s a story of survival on an alien world. Just with giant transforming robots. And the Krays.” So, a story about British Leyland vehicles which transform into fighting robots getting into gangland scraps with Ronnie and Reggie, then, which ought to be the only words you need to read before heading off to hand over £20 to help make this a reality.
- LinkClump: A Chrome extension which does one simple, useful thing - highlight a block of copy on any page which contains multiple hyperlinks and this will open them all for you simultaneously in separate tabs. Go on, install this and then try it on Curios and just WATCH how your computer reacts, I dare you.
- Vimeo Stock: Stock video from Vimeo, royalty-free and ready to use. Useful, helpful, reasonably diverse, this is worth bookmarking.
- The Galactic Atlas: You may have heard of No Man’s Sky, the space exploration videogame that algorithmically creates an infinite cosmos to explore - this site is a WONDERFUL companion to it, collecting photos taken by players in-game of the places they have been and the stuff that they have seen. Honestly, even if you have never played the game and have no interest in the medium as a whole this is STILL gorgeous to click around and explore, if only as a celebration of the game’s ‘scifi cover art’ visual aesthetic. Honestly SO lovely.
- Other Places: Sticking with the videogame theme, Other Places is a YouTube channel presenting footage of beautiful virtual worlds - short films which simply and wordlessly celebrate the aesthetic of some of the most visually arresting productions in games. As a way of exploring distinct visual styles this is excellent, and it offers a pretty good trove of visual inspiration for any designers amongst you who want a video lookbook of game-type visuals.
- Ride The 11 Bus: A Twitter bot which every day recounst the journey of the Number 11 bus around outer Birmingham. It does nothing else. This is as close to pure art as Twitter will ever get, basically.
- World War Two: A YouTube channel which is, as far as I can tell, going to attempt to tell the story of the second World War through the medium of videos released in realtime-timeshifted fashion; there’s only one up there at the moment, but I imagine as the weeks pass and Hitler really gets into his stride there will be more up there. If you have kids who are suffering through GCSE history, this might be a marginally more palatable way of getting them to ‘do’ WWII than just textbooks. It might not, though; look, I know nothing about your kids FFS.
- Lordess Foudre: An Insta feed whose description reads: “I create these art pieces. I touched a computer once and now look at me.” Weird, slightly unsettling, 80s/90s-inflected PC culture art, which description may well be absolutely the least-helpful explanation of a link I have ever written so GO ME!
- Cat Camp: Did you go camping this year? Did you have a great time, but with the nagging feeling that something was missing? Was that something your LOVABLE FELINE COMPANION? Well FEAR NOT, for there is a solution - the CAT TENT! An ACTUAL TENT! BUT FOR CATS! If you have $60 burning a hole in your pocket then I honestly hope you do something less pointless with it than this, but it’s up to you (don’t buy a cat tent, seriously).
- Soviet Movies: The final Insta of the week, this is a feed which shares stills from Soviet cinema. A very well-curated selection of shots, this.
- The Map of How The World Really Works: This is the maddest thing in here this week - ‘mad’ in the literal, mentally unwell sense - and I don’t say that lightly. WATCH OUT FOR THE LIZARD ILLUMINATI!
- LEGO Bongo: An album on Imgur featuring a truly baffling - and pretty enormous - collection of images which combine sex and LEGO. Some are NSFW, some are just photos of LEGO minifigs rutting which, come on, NOONE is going to sack you for (NB - Web Curios and its author accept no responsibility whatsoever for your employer being marginally less liberal than assumed). I can’t promise that looking at this won’t destroy the last vestiges of childish innocence that you might still possess; still, you’re going to click, aren’t you? AREN’T YOU?
- Adult Box Covers: By contrast to the above, this link is most definitely and incontrovertibly NOT AT ALL SAFE FOR WORK (unless you work at Pr0nhub) - honestly, you are one click away from a LOT of photos of people fcuking. This is a frankly ASTONISHING collection of old VHS/DVD covers, divided by, er, ‘interest category’ - it’s a salutary reminder of the fact that it’s not the internet that has turned us all into deviants, we were always like this. Thanks to Shardcore for bringing this to my - and now your - attention; if you are able to click on this, please take the time to see what the most unappealing / odd title you can find is; may I suggest that you start at the ‘oddities’ section and marvel at the incredible range and breadth of human sexuality and the incredible ingenuity of the people who name bongo flicks (seriously, all of the applause to the person who coined ‘Mighty Hermaphrodite’).
- Game Maker’s Toolkit Jam 2018: All the entries to this year’s Game Maker’s Toolkit Development Jam, in which developers spent 48h making small experimental games - many of these are playable in-browser, and the rest are downloadable, so there’s a veritable PLETHORA of slightly odd small games to play around with.
- Evolution: This is ACE - Evolution lets you design a ‘creature’ with joints, bones and muscles, and once you’ve done so tries to ‘evolve’ it into the best walking version of itself it can. “Watch how the combination of a neural network and a genetic algorithm can enable your creatures to "learn" and improve at their given tasks all on their own.The tasks include running, jumping and climbing. Can you build the ultimate creature that is good at all of the tasks?” So, so addictive that my finding it this morning delayed the start of the Curios writing process by 15 minutes.
- Perishable: Finally in this week’s miscellanea, Perishable is a lightly interactive poem, built in Twine. I think this is absolutely beautiful; please play / read it.
THE CIRCUS OF TUMBLRS!:
- Micro Chop: Not in fact a Tumblr! Still, this is ace - Micro Chop is a single-interest site devoted to DJ culture - DJing, rapping, synths, vinyl, the works. If you’re something of a techy music fan this will be GOLDEN.
- Exquisite Pleasure Sequence: Sometimes I think Tumblr is dying; then I stumble across stuff like this, a Tumblr devoted to a single obsession with w4nking robots, and I think that that might not be a bad thing. To be clear, there are no actual w4nking robots here - just a bunch of images and gifs and short stories which refer to being given a cold, robot handjob. No, I have literally no idea.
LONG THINGS WHICH ARE LONG!:
- I Quit: A collection of essays which are all about quitting jobs, and which might motivate YOU to take a proper look at the grim reality of your quotidian workaday existence and SHAKE IT UP A BIT. In the spirit of sharing, I am going to add to this collection by linking you to the text of my leaving email from my last proper job some 6 or so years ago; it may not surprise you to learn that I was asked to leave the premises immediately following its landing in the inboxes of All Staff (Global).
- Hyde on Kaepernick: Of all of the takes on the Nike / Kaepernick ad (my personal one - it’s a very good advert but I fcuking despise the coopting of serious issues to flog sweatshopsneakers), this, by Marina Hyde in the Guardian this week, is my personal favourite. Hyde is just a fantastic writer generally, and here she (I think) absolutely nails the slightly queasy nature of the juxtaposition of big culture war issue and the need to sell an awful lot of footwear.
- Chasing The Bitcoin Boys: Oh Bitcoin! This is a great piece, about the town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire which can lay reasonable claim to being the most Bitcoin-friendly place on the planet and where the author of the article travels to to meet some of the mysterious intellectuals pushing for universal adoption of Bitcoin and crypto in general as accepted payment methods. Portsmouth apparently offers residents and visitors the ability to live a largely crypto-only life; one of the best things about this essay is the way in which the author slowly comes to the realisation that attempting to pay for everything with Bitcoin is fcuking stupid and really doesn’t work. Very entertaining, even if you’re not as much of a cryptosceptic as I am.
- The Rise of Busybody Journalism: An excellent essay exploring the rise of journalism which really isn’t journalism at all, but a series of observations, assumptions or beliefs masquerading as reporting - using as its jumping off point the recent bullsh1t article in the WSJ about London being RUN BY MUSLIMS, it sets out the thesis that too much writing presented as reporting is little more than a prose representation of a YouTube video; lacking rigour, research and, often, any sort of truth value whatsoever.
- Fortnite Is More Than A Game: Former Guardian Games Editor Keith Stuart writes on Medium about Fortnite - specifically, about the non-game way in which it’s increasingly being used, and its evolution into a community platform rather than ‘just’ a shooter. Stuart’s anecdotes about the way in which his sons, and he and his friends, congregate in the virtual world, and the way in which the gameplay provides natural space for conversation and discussion amongst teams and antagonists alike, are lovely, and it’s another smart piece of writing about how conceiving of things like this in purely ludic terms is, well, silly.
- I Am Part of the Resistance: McSweeney’s parodies that NYT op-ed; genuinely funny, but also really not actually that funny at all (2018! IT YOU!).
- Tigers: An exhaustive history of the past mascots of Louisiana State University’s football team - mascots.
- which have always been called ‘Mike’, and which have always been actual, live tigers. This is SUPERB writing - honestly, you don’t need to care about American football to enjoy the prose here, and the anecdotes and stories embedded in this piece are just golden. It’s part of a wider series of essays about football, the rest of which are linked to at the bottom; I read the second one too, all about the necessarily-fleeting professional career of the Wide Receiver in the NFL and it was as good, so do click through and give them a go as Spencer Hall, the author, is a hugely talented writer.
- The Joke I Most Regret: Short interviews with a series of comedians on the jokes from their past repertoire that they most regret telling with hindsight; good on both the current interest in ensuring that comedy is considerate of privilege and as inclusive as possible and the larger question of ‘yes, but is it ok if it’s funny?’. Students of comedy (THIS IS FOR YOU, ALEX) will also enjoy some of the conversations deconstructing why a joke is regrettable; this is really very interesting.
- The Genoa Bridge Collapse: An NYT explainer on how the disaster occurred, featuring interviews with emergency services and survivors, and including some stunning photography and video of the bridge. The story they tell of the man who escaped unscathed is quite remarkable.
- Sperm Count Zero: The sperm are all fcuked, is the basic topline here; this is a look at what is contributing to a seemingly global drop in sperm quality, in particular the way in which chemical usage across all aspects of production and manufacture throughout the 20th Century has seemingly had the unintended consequence of royally screwing our swimmers. On the plus side, though, the article concludes that we probably won’t need sperm to reproduce soon enough anyway - or indeed men. Cheers to all of that!
- Meet Chicklet: Another week, another profile of an Instagrammer - or in this case a pair of Instagrammers. Chicklet is an Insta account which posts the daily existence of a couple, the titular Chicklet and his girlfriend Maleni - their dramas, their sweet moments, all of it amped up to 11 with a hefty dose of scripted, pre-planned choreography. I find this sort of thing honestly fascinating - the slightly Kaufman-ish idea of ‘life as performance art’ piece taken to a mass-market extreme, with every single element packaged, commodified and presented for an audience thirsty for more irreal, surreal ‘reality’.
- Stuff That Men Need To Unlearn From Bongo: If you have teenage boys, send this to them. A whole Reddit thread devoted to discussing the sexual techniques that men pick up from pr0n which, contrary to the action depicted on screen, don’t for most women lead to a positive sexual experience. It’s a Very Good Thing that Reddit exists for stuff like this - it’s obviously very explicit and textually NSFW, but it’s very much worth a read. Bits are funny, bits are gross, but the overwhelming thing that struck me is the extent to which literally ALL kids are using bongo as sex-ed in 2018 and what a massively, massively fcuked-up thing that is.
- The World of Cruise Entertainers: This is JOYFUL, as most writing about cruise ships tends to be - Esquire profiles the four contenders for the coveted title of Cruise Entertainer of the Year, and in so doing creates a beautiful portrait of the odd, camp, family-friendly world of the cruise ship entertainer, an entity that inhabits a weird showbiz hinterland somewhere between the Judges House stage of X Factor and the end-of-the-pier at Blackpool. Honestly, you will fall slightly in love with everyone you meet in this piece, it’s just perfect.
- Nuance: A Love Story: I very much enjoyed this essay, despite not expecting to at all; the author, Meghan Daum, writes about how in the aftermath of the breakdown of her marriage she found herself turning from her traditional leftist beliefs and instead started exploring what is now commonly referred to as the ‘intellectual dark web’; what’s interesting about this piece is less its exploration of the thinking and theories of the IDW but instead its examination of what it was about canonical leftist thinking that had come to frustrate her to the point that she was forced to look for alternatives. The title is born out of that - what the author saw as the dogmatic and increasingly uncritical, unwavering and monolithic belief set that characterises woke thinking. You may not agree, but it’s an intelligently-written piece (and she thinks JBP is a tool, just so you know that she’s not a crank).
- The Last Thing Mom Asked: On the death of a parent and attempted euthanasia. This is short but beautifully-written.
- Treehouse: This is, ostensibly, an essay about a visit to arts collective Meow Wolf, but it’s really not at all - it’s about travel and self and marriage and how hard it is to be with someone and the tedium of forever, and I loved every word of it.
- After Lawson: Finally, this is about rape and its aftermath and about learning to have sex again, and it’s the best thing I have read all week and I think one of the best things I have read all year. It’s not, obviously, an easy read, but it’s beautiful. ‘Enjoy’ feels like the wrong word, but you’ll see what I mean.
AND NOW, MOVING PICTURES AND SOUNDS!:
- This is some awesome and slightly unsettling CGI to accompany Ash Koosha’s latest electrobeatsy track - it’s called ‘Return 0’ and it is all cold and shimmery, and the sounds and visuals go very well indeed:
2) This is a short, experimental ‘horror’ film. It’s called #eatpretty, and my favourite thing about it is how creator Rebecca Culverhouse absolutely nails the Insta aesthetic in every shot. This is...unsettling:
4) This is a cover of The Sound of Music, but I promise you that you’ll be hard-pressed to tell. This is by Laibach, and it may well be my new favourite cover version EVER; this takes the song and turns it into something completely other, in the best possible way:
5) This might be one of my favourite songs of the year. It’s sort-of about Trump and sort-of about Clinton, and sort of about feminism, and it’s SO SO SO GOOD. It’s called Pantsuit Sasquatch and please please please watch and listen:
6) Finally this week, and the most appropriate thing to leave you with for the next two weeks, this is a short animation called ‘Enough’, all about those moments when you really, really want to do something but convention dictates you can't. I promise you, watch this and your life will be better in two short minutes. BYE I LOVE YOU BYE PLEASE DON’T FORGET ABOUT ME AND LOOK AFTER THE INTERNET WHILE I AM GONE I DO WORRY ABOUT IT YOU KNOW TRY AND HAVE FUN AND PLEASE TRY AND MISS ME JUST A LITTLE BIT I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU BYE HAVE FUN BYE!: